Fact Check: Was Arnold Schwarzenegger Spotted Wearing a Pro-Ukraine Shirt?

A photo featuring Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenneger has gone viral, appearing to show the latter wearing a dark-green T-shirt with the map of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, with the words "I'll be back."

The photo has been interpreted by many to mean that the Terminator star, who has been very vocal in his opposition to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is calling for the territory to be returned to Ukraine.

But others have questioned the provenance and authenticity of the viral image.

Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking in Columbus, Ohio
Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to fans during the Slap Fighting Championships at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus Convention Center on March 5, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The Hollywood star has reiterated his support for Ukraine in a recent address, calling on Western nations to boycott Russian oil. Gaelen Morse/Getty Images

The Claim

The image, featuring Schwarzenegger in the green T-Shirt that has "I'll be back!"—his famous catchphrase—overlayed on top of the contour map of Crimea, has been posted by multiple high-profile social media accounts.

One was Paul Massaro, a senior policy advisor for counter-corruption and sanctions at the Helsinki Commission, who captioned the image: "This is awesome and also true."

The tweet, posted on June 18, received more than 20,000 interactions, including 19,800 likes. Newsweek has reached out to Paul Massaro for comment.

The image was also shared by pro-Ukraine accounts on Twitter, Reddit and other platforms, gathering thousands of views and shares.

The Facts

The image purporting to show Crimea on Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-shirt is manipulated. A reverse image search reveals that in fact the actor was wearing a plain dark green T-shirt, which has become a useful "blank canvass" for Photoshop enthusiasts to get creative.

The original photo is dated to June 2012, two years before Crimea was annexed by Russia, and features a plain shirt. The snap was taken by photographers at Cafe Roma in Beverly Hills, California on June 30, 2012, with additional photos confirming that no designs or writings were present on Arnie's T-shirt.

Notably, the photo has been altered and manipulated many times since it was published, with a purpose of pushing either pro-Russian or pro-Ukraine messaging, along with neutral enthusiasts editing the image for fun.

While the image of the Schwarzenegger top referencing Crimea is not real, the former California governor has nevertheless stated on several occasions his opposition to Russia's invasion and support for Ukraine.

On March 17, 2022, the Austrian-born actor called on the Russian people to stop the war, citing his own childhood experiences growing up in the aftermath of the Second World War, and watching his father having to deal with his own past mistakes.

"I love the Russian people. That is why I have to tell you the truth. Please watch and share," he wrote in a tweet with his video address.

More recently, during his online address to the "Austrian World Summit" climate conference, the Last Action Hero star called on Western nations to cut imports of Russian oil, saying "we have blood on our hands because we are financing the war."

The film star was also given a traditional Ukrainian shirt, the vyshyvanka, as a present by the Ukraine-born actor Vlad Kabanets, for his championing of the Ukrainian cause.

While it does not appear that Schwarzenegger has made any recent comments directly addressing Crimea's status, in 2014, shortly after Russia invaded the peninsula, he did call on Republicans and Democrats to "get on the same page" about their response to the annexation.

Furthermore, while promoting the movie "Sabotage," he called on Russia to "stop whatever they are doing" and watch his film.

Newsweek has reached out to Arnold Schwarzenegger for comment.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

The photo that depicts Schwarzenegger wearing an "I'll be back" T-shirt featuring Crimea is not real, the original image of a plain green top was edited. Though that particular photo is fake, the former California governor has been clear about his support for the Ukrainian people on other occasions, most recently calling on the West to stop imports of Russian oil.

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK